EU Nature Protection Legislation – Focus on Species Protection






Biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem functions which provide supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. These services are essential for human well-being, as they are directly related to food needs, human health, economic growth and social progress. In particular, the role of biodiversity is directly connected to fundamental functions on the Earth, such as maintaining balance of the ecosystem (i.e. recycling and storage of nutrients, combating pollution, stabilising climate, forming and protecting soil), provision of biological resources (i.e. provision of medicines and pharmaceuticals, wood products, breeding stock and diversity of species, ecosystems and genes) and social benefits (i.e. recreation and tourism, cultural value, education and research).

In the present era, the Earth’s biodiversity is in grave danger. The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem, In fact human beings have deeply altered the environment, and have modified the territory, exploiting the species directly, for example by fishing and hunting, changing the biogeochemical cycles and transferring species from one area to another of the planet. The threats to biodiversity can be summarised in the following main points: Click here for more information! alteration and loss of habitats, introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms, pollution, human overpopulation, climate change, overexploitation of resources.

Given that biodiversity loss is described, alongside climate change, as the most critical global environmental threat, in 2010 the EU Heads of State and Governments set themselves the following target for biodiversity conservation in the EU: "To halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss." The Commission’s EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, Click here for more information! adopted in May 2011, sets out six main targets to ensure this overall objective is achieved by 2020. One of the targets is to fully implement the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The Birds and Habitats Directives, sometimes jointly called “Nature Directives”, are the cornerstones of the EU’s biodiversity policy; the heart of European nature conservation is the protection of biodiversity. They enable all 28 EU Member States to work together, within a common legislative framework, to conserve Europe’s most endangered and valuable habitats and species across their entire natural range within the EU, irrespective of political or administrative boundaries.